Friday, March 28, 2014

Feel Like A Number

I met with my Superintendent yesterday to discuss our school's PLC work, and how we are working towards our vision and goals of our Math PLC. The discussion turned to the new Teacher Evaluation Model and Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs). We were discussing how we thought teachers were handling things considering all of the unprecedented changes that have taken place in Education the last few years. I enjoyed the conversation and the give-and-take between us. Everything was going well until he said the following to me: "I thought you would love this. You are a numbers guy. I thought this would be right up your alley."

My mind began to race. I could actually feel myself starting to get warm. I was suddenly overcome with frustration. Maybe it was the proverbial "last straw" trying to deal with all of the new changes. Maybe I was letting my exhaustion get the better of me. I composed myself the best I could and replied: "I do not like these at all. What I do is so much more than a number on a scale. It is about relationships. Plain and simple. It is about relationships with the kids I teach!"

Mind you, I was very respectful, but I knew it came out a little more heated than I intended. I just firmly believe that what we do as Educators, what we really inspire, can not be measure by a number. The impact we have on the students we interact with everyday can not be summed up by the median score from a state test that arrives once a year. Make that now twice a year with PARCC! How do you measure the following?

* That I have a 7th grader that does not shut down when faced with a difficult problem like he did in September?

*That I have kids staying after school ON A FRIDAY to retake a test before the weekend begins?

*That I spent time working w/ an advanced 7th grader on multiplying binomials with radicals?

*That I had 2 8th graders inform me first thing this morning that they went home to Google the name of the race of people Christopher Columbus eradicated?

*That I had 2 different 8th graders come in with permission slips to read books I mentioned yesterday?

I understand how great numbers can be. I teach Math. I get it. Thye absolutely can be used to quantify anything. I just do not think what Educators do can be viewed this way. We work with children. Our students might be pre-schoolers or high schoolers, but they are still children. I just wish the people who crunched all of those numbers got that!

I had to laugh when I heard Bob Seger's song: "I Feel Like a Number" on the way home yesterday. Needless to say, I turned the volume way up!

I am interested to hear how you are handling the movement to dwindle what we do down to a number? I would love to hear from you!


Justin Aion said...

I am handling it by, on the off chance that I'll have a meeting about "teacher effectiveness" I plan to, respectfully, say that I'm not interested in any data that doesn't involve someone observing me in my classroom. My kids are not numbers and neither am I.

You are absolutely right to say that it's about relationships and all kinds of qualitative data.

You kept your cool much more than I would have.


Dave Mulder said...

Jim, you have the best stories! Thanks so much for sharing them with us. I'm convinced that some of the best teaching happens as storytelling. We learn from you as you share your heart, your passion with us.

You are not a number. #youmatter

Ben Gilpin said...

Isn't it interesting how a person is perceived? You were perceived to be a numbers some ways as a Math teacher you are knee deep in numbers all the time. Yet how powerful for you to speak to the real issues. Building relationships with your students. At what point will we all realize the test score is just a number and not a persons worth?

Thanks for sharing this exchange, it is a lesson to all of us to focus on the student, not the number.

Matt said...

I haven't had a chance to discuss SGPs or VAM measures with my adminsistrator yet. When given the opportunity, I'd probably react in a similar manner. As you highlighted in your post, developing student relationships are important and should be valued. I agree with Ben's comment and hope that students will be perceived as more than one number used for sorting/ranking purposes. Our actions often reflect what we value. Thanks for sharing your story.

Suzanne Gibbs said...

You are so spot on! It is incredible how much our kids teach us and how we are able to watch them overcome so many obstacles. Thanks for your great observations!